Study n.6 - inspired by Eddie Van Halen!
** As featured in issue 15 **
In this fingerstyle guitar lesson we will be looking at a short composition of mine simply called Study n.6. It was inspired by the iconic Rock classic Jump by guitar-hero Eddie Van Halen, who has shocked the guitar world (in a positive manner of course) by recording an array of guitar solos which have influenced and inspired guitarists and listeners and all over the world. As I started re-arranging this '80s rock guitar classic I realised that the first challenge was the ‘ostinato’ bass figure to be played with the ‘p’ finger, while the i, m, a fingers played the main riff.
As I was practising the main riff, I couldn’t help taking a music tangent and before I knew it, this little piece came to life. I strongly recommend using this sort compositional strategy, which essentially consists of capitalising on an existing idea. This has been a really popular technique amongst the most eminent composers, who have often created a so-called ‘variation on a theme’.
Creating this piece was great fun and also an excellent way to train my picking-hand in order to gain the necessary coordination skills required to articulate the drawn with the ‘p’ finger and the riff with the i, m, a fingers.
Let’s get started with the ‘p’ finger playing the so-called ‘ostinato’ figure on the A string and articulating 8th notes. Next, we are playing the D, G and B strings using the i, m, a fingers. Next, we are going to juxtapose the riff over the drawn, as per the video.
“How do we put these two rhythms together?”
If we count 8th notes as follows: 1 and, 2and, 3and, 4and, the riff will coincide to:
(1, 3, 4and, 3). This should be repeated 3 times, but I would suggest clapping this rhythm while you count as above until you have memorised this pattern.
Next pattern is as follows:
(1, 1and, 4, 4and).
Now let’s try this pattern on the guitar, focusing of the inner 4 strings with ‘p, i, m, a’ fingers respectively on A, D, G, B strings.
Repeat this pattern using a metronome and making sure each note sounds as clear and accurate as possible.
Next we are going to look at the left hand part:
Bar 1: 4/6 Barre on fret 9 (apologies for the Freudian lapse in the video: it’s fret 9 instead of 7), ring f. on fret 11 of D and middle f. on fret 10 of B. Finally, barre on fret 7.
Bar 2: Let the previous bar chord ring for the first 2 beats and then add ring f. on fret 9 of B.
Bar 3: Middle and ring f on fret 6 of D and G, index on fret 5 of B. Holding the ring finger where it is, index f on fret 5 of D and little f on fret 7 of B. Next middle and ring f on fret 4 of D and G, index on fret 3 of B.
Bar 4: Let the previous chord ring for the first 2 beats and then, while holding the ring f where it is, add index f. on fret 3 of D and little f on fret 5 of B.
Bar 5: Bar chord on fret 2 of D, G, B. For the next chord (A7sus4), hold the index f on fret 2 of D, then we need an open G string and the ring f on fret 3 of B. Next, ring f on fret 4 of D, index f on fret 2 of G and open B.
Bar 6: Let the previous chord ring for the first 2 beats and then, index f on fret 2 of g and B, middle f on fret 3 of D. (F augmented or an implied DmMaj7).
Bar 7 and 8: Open D, index f on fret 1 of G and open B. Next, middle, ring and little f on fret 2 of D, G and B. These last 2 chords will be played again as per the video.
Congratulations, you have completed section A!
Bar 9: Middle f on fret 9 of G, open B and ring f on fret 9 of E. Next, index f on fret 5 of E, open B and middle f on fret 6 of G. Next, middle f on fret 4 of G, open B and ring f on fret 4 of E.
Bar 10: Let the previous chord ring for the first 2 beats and then, middle f on fret 7 of G, open B and ring f on fret 7 of E.
Bar 11: Middle f on fret 6 of G, open B and index f on fret 5 of E. Next, index f on fret 1 of G, open B and E. Next, ring f on fret 4 of D, index f on fret 2 of G and middle f on fret 3 of B.
Bar 12: Let the previous chord ring for the first 2 beats and then index on fret 1 of G, open B and ring f on fret 2 of E.
Bar 13: Same as the last chord of bar 12. Next, middle f on fret 2 of G, open B and E.
Bar 14: Let the previous chord ring.
Bar 15: Play harmonics on the XII fret of B and E.
Bar 16: Let the previous harmonics ring.
Congratulations, you have completed section B!
Finally, you could repeat section A and loop the last two bars twice.
As always, you will be able to download a transcription by selecting the menu option on this page.
I strongly recommend experimenting with a few picking variations, changing the chords as you wish in terms voicing (higher or lower), as well as trying the same picking pattern on a different chord progression, or using a ‘capo’ on fret 2 or for a brighter outcome.
When repeating any section twice or more, you may want to play ‘sul ponticello’, (closer to the bridge) or ‘sul tasto’ (over the frets) for a more contrasting result.
Congrats! You’ve completed this tune.
As recommended in the previous columns, where we mainly focused on the picking hand, we ought to focus most of all on accuracy and consistency of tone. Strategies to further improvement include the use of the planting technique described in the previous columns, resting our fingers onto the chosen strings, and executing each stroke with a controlled and even pressure and with tonal and dynamic awareness. Each note we play should sound as full-bodied and as good as the previous one.
Please focus on minimum-movement approach, as this will help delivering the piece in a more accurate and consistent manner, while saving energy.
This will complete this fingerstyle and guitar composition lesson.
Whether you will play this composition on a steel strung or a nylon strung guitar, this will provide a great opportunity to improve your muting techniques as well as coordination skills of the picking and fretting hand.
I hope you will enjoy playing this study piece and that this will give you some ideas on how to write your own solo guitar compositions.